At least one tourist has died and another has been seriously injured after a volcano dramatically erupted on the luxury Italian resort island of Stromboli.
Holidaymakers ran into the sea as a huge ash cloud rose into the sky and chunks of giant rock began spewing from the volcanic summit on the small Mediterranean island.
According to local media reports, a hiker died after being struck by a falling piece of stone. Another was reportedly injured.
“It was like being in hell because of the rain of fire coming from the sky,” local priest Giovanni Longo was quoted as saying.
— donovan suddell (@donovan950) July 3, 2019
Italy’s National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV) said there were two huge explosions on the central-southern side of the volcano’s crater on Wednesday.
The explosions created a two-kilometre high plume of smoke and a fountain of lava which gushed and spilled “from all the active mouths of the crater terrace,” the INGV said.
The Stromboli volcano, believed to be one of the most active on Earth, was pictured spewing ash and molten lava into the air.
#Update: Video uploaded by one hiker who was running down the hill when he felt it, has caught a close shot of the 3KM high ash cloud of when it erupted on the island of #Stromboli in #Italy. pic.twitter.com/i96xotHly9
— Sotiri Dimpinoudis (@sotiridi) July 3, 2019
Rescue services say the eruption had started fires on the western side of the small Mediterranean island north of Sicily.
Fire crews were being called in from nearby locations and a Canadair plane was already in action.
We saw the explosion from the hotel. There was a loud roar,” said Michela Favorito, who works in a resort near Fico Grande, on the east side of the island.
“We plugged our ears and after this a cloud of ash swept over us. The whole sky is full of ash, a fairly large cloud,” she told Reuters.
Fiona Carter, a British tourist on the island of Panarea, about 27km from Stromboli, heard the blast.
“We turned around to see a mushroom cloud coming from Stromboli. Everyone was in shock. Then red hot lava started running down the mountain towards the little village of Ginostra,” she told Reuters.
“The cloud got bigger, white and grey. It enveloped Ginostra and now the cloud has covered Stromboli entirely. Several boats set off for Stromboli,” she added.
National Institute of Geophysics and Vulcanology expert Stefano Branca told Reuters there had been a “paroxysmal eruption” on the island, when high-pressure magma explodes from a shallow, underground reservoir.
“These are events of great intensity and quite rare,” he said.
Tourists often climb to the 924-metre summit of the volcano and peer into its crater, with small puffs of molten rock regularly blasted into the sky. It was not clear if anyone was on the crater at the time of the latest blast.
The island was the setting for a 1950 movie starring Ingrid Bergman and, with other islands in the Aeolian archipelago, has become a favourite location in recent decades for holiday homes for the rich and famous.